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9 basketball stars who are surprisingly talented on the golf course from Steph Curry to Caitlin Clark

Meredith Cash   

9 basketball stars who are surprisingly talented on the golf course — from Steph Curry to Caitlin Clark
College basketball star Caitlin Clark (left) and NBA legend Michael Jordan both enjoy playing golf.Michael Reaves/Getty Images; AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
  • Lots of high-profile athletes across sports have taken to golf during and after their careers.
  • Basketball superstars in particular seem to gravitate towards the links.

Golf and basketball share more similarities than meet the eye.

Success on the course commands pin-point accuracy, a balance of power and finesse, mental fortitude, and consistency in one's craft. So too, does success on the court.

Perhaps that's why so many basketball stars have gravitated towards the links during and after their careers.

Michael Jordan, widely considered the NBA's Greatest of All Time (GOAT), played golf throughout his illustrious basketball career and has devoted much of his time in retirement to perfecting his game. Four-time NBA champion Steph Curry has professional-level talent — though he insists he won't pursue a second career in pro sports.

And recently, Caitlin Clark — the Iowa Hawkeyes superstar who is arguably the most electric player in college basketball — showed off her golfing abilities at a professional-amateur tournament not far from her college campus.

They're far from the only hoopers who have shown a knack for the sport. Check out nine basketball stars who have embraced golf — and found varying degrees of success:

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan has always had a penchant for exploring sports outside of basketball.      Porter Binks-USA TODAY; AP Photo/Brad Horn

Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the NBA's Greatest of All Time (GOAT) after winning six titles with the Chicago Bulls, has always had a penchant for exploring sports outside of basketball. He famously took a break during his prime years with the Bulls to pursue a professional baseball career.

Though his golf exploits never took him away from the hardwood for that long, His Airness spent — and continues to spend — considerable time out on the course. He played throughout his basketball career, often gambling large sums of money over his play.

Jordan loves the game so much, he built his own mega-exclusive course — Grove XXIII — near his home in Florida. He also hosts an annual celebrity golf tournament to raise money for various charities.

Given his legendarily competitive nature, it's relatively unsurprising Jordan has become quite an impressive golfer. He reportedly has a handicap of just 1.9, per USA Today.

Ray Allen

Ray Allen
Ray Allen credited playing golf with helping him improve his game on the basketball court.      REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity; AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Legendary NBA sharpshooter Ray Allen — who ranks second on the NBA's all-time three-pointers list — found a sanctuary on the golf course. He once told Golf Channel's David Feherty playing golf helped him improve his game on the basketball court.

"I started breaking the game down, and it helped me start breaking my basketball game down," Allen said. "Because I started working on the left side, working on the right side, working from behind the basket, but more importantly, making a free throw was like making a putt."

By all accounts, Allen is a stellar golfer. He says he owns a remarkable 0.2 handicap at TPC River Highlands, the Connecticut course where the PGA Tour hosts its Travelers Championship.

He's also played with some notable partners, including President Barack Obama during his second term.

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley
NBA great Charles Barkley doesn't have a strong reputation on the golf course, but he insists he's improved in recent years.      Gary Cameron/Reuters; John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Barkley is considered one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. Throughout his 16-year professional basketball career, the "Round Mound of Rebound" collected 11 All-Star nods, an MVP award, and five first-team selections. And in recent years, he's become a popular basketball analyst for TNT and CBS Sports.

But he's enjoyed far less of a positive reputation on the golf course, where his notoriously jerky swing made him the butt of jokes in real life and on the internet. But Barkley insists that he's leveled out his swing, and that now, he's actually a formidable golfer. Golf Digest says he plays a 10 handicap.

"I play every day now," Barkley told the outlet. "And I'm playing real golf."

Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark
Caitlin Clark has played golf recreationally since she was a kid.      Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports; AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Caitlin Clark, the Iowa Hawkeyes superstar who has taken the college basketball world by storm, has played recreational golf since she was a kid. And the summer before her senior year in Iowa City, the sharpshooter put those skills to the test in a big way.

She teamed up with fellow Iowan Zach Johnson — the US Ryder Cup captain with two major championships to his name — for the John Deere Classic Pro-Am at TPC Deere Run in July. The duo finished with a -5 on the day, per the local ABC affiliate, and Clark told ESPN's M.A. Voepel she "had a solo par to start the day, which was nice."

She also learned some lessons she'll take back with her to the basketball court.

"I think Zach would say the mental side of basketball or golf is way more important that the physical skill," Clark told ESPN. "I'm only 21, so being able to learn that has been hard, but it really is true. You have one bad thing, you have to recover. Whether it's a turnover or a missed putt."

J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith
After his basketball career ended, two-time NBA champion J.R. Smith went back to college to play golf at North Carolina A&T.      AP Photo/Chris Szagola; AP Photo/Julio Cortez

J.R. Smith spent an impressive 16 seasons competing for various NBA teams, and he was known as a great shooter from beyond the arc. When his professional basketball career came to an end, he found himself feeling lost and bored, per a profile in The New York Times.

He turned to golf, a hobby that long offered him "something else to focus on other than my life." Smith went back to school at North Carolina A&T — an HBCU in Greensboro, North Carolina — and walked onto the school's varsity golf team.

He averaged an 85.58 through the four tournaments he played in his first year on campus.

Steph Curry

Steph Curry
Steph Curry regularly showcases near pro-level skills when he competes at pro-am and charity events.      Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports; AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Steph Curry is known for his long-range shooting on the basketball court, but apparently those skills extend to the links as well. The Golden State Warriors superstar boasts an impressive +1.3 handicap, per The PGA Tour, and regularly showcases near pro-level skills when he competes at pro-am and charity events.

And despite rumblings that the four-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP could compete on tour after his basketball playing days are behind him, Curry told ESPN he doesn't have the time or motivation it takes to reach that level.

"It's a very time-intensive sport and to be very good at it and practice and what I heard these pros go through, it's different," Curry said. "I don't know if I'm ready for all that. But I know I'll be good enough to compete in those other events that are fun and competitive at the same time."

Larry Bird

Larry Bird
Larry Bird founded his own golf course in Florida.      AP Photo/Elise Amendola; George Tiedemann/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Larry Bird is a bona fide legend on the basketball court, having won three NBA championships as one of the all-time most memorable names associated with the Boston Celtics.

The 6-foot-9 Indiana native isn't too shabby on the links, either. He helped found a golf club in Naples, Florida, after hanging up his sneakers in 1992, and he reportedly has a 4.1 handicap.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul
Chris Paul once played alongside golf's greatest star, Tiger Woods.      Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports; AP Photo/Rob Brown

Chris Paul is one of the most talented point guards in NBA history, and he's among the many basketball stars who have embraced golf when they're not on the hardwood. He discovered the "Gentlemen's Game" in 2009, and while he doesn't compete at a near-professional level like some other current and former NBA stars, he's a solid player.

The 12-time NBA All-Star even played alongside golf titan Tiger Woods at the 2015 Wyndham Championship pro-am.

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson can hold his own on the golf course.      Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports; Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for The Match

Golden State Warriors superstar Klay Thompson has made five All-Star appearances and won four NBA titles thanks to his sharpshooting abilities. And while he's not as talented on the golf course as his "Splash Brothers" counterpart, Steph Curry, Thompson can hold his own.

Well, sometimes. He struggled in "The Match," a charity event in which he and Curry teamed up against NFL stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. The duo fell short of their football foes, thanks to wayward shots like this from Thompson.

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